Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

Starting Small March 30, 2012

Filed under: Books,Creativity,Family,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 1:34 am
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I have been wanting to share how we are ‘scratching the homeschool surface’ as it were. I am a certified teacher and hold a master’s degree in secondary education. Because I eat, live, and breath teaching and learning, we have chosen to homeschool our children. There are many other reasons, that I may go into in a later post. For now, I just want to share what it is we do each week.

This is our learning ‘space’. In reality however, we learn all over the house. I have this space designated for learning and teaching for organizations’ sake. Henry built our learning table. We created a vertical art and project station with items purchased from Ikea (stinking love that store).  We spend time here in the morning going over the date, weather, our letter/sound of the week, and our memory verse. We have been working on a bird watching station, but have yet to attract an actual bird.

We also keep most of our children’s books here. I love displaying the books on these picture ledges because I think it entices children to read, and is visually stimulating. We go to the library several times a week and keep our loaner books in one basket and our personal books in the other. The themes we are studying at the moment are ancient Egyptians, Seeds, and Elephants. Makayla always selects some pleasure reading books on  topics she is interested in as well.

This week we have been learning about the letter F. We made this nest out of paper mache, and then made this cute little bird family. Makayla named them Fluffy, Mr. fluffy, and Cheeky. I try to emphasize the sound of the letter, rather than the name. So we do activities and emphasise the sound, as in feather and fort! Makayla likes cutting and gluing (who doesn’t?) so we usually do a collage based on our letter/sound as well. I am working on basic math skills with some manipulative and everyday objects. Makayla loves to sort and categorize.

As  you can see, we are really just beginning to get the feel for homeschooling. I know the actual structured curriculum and such will not come for a few years. For now we are just getting comfortable and trying to figure out what type of routine will work for our family. I have been thinking about homeschooling since Makayla was a baby. As soon as she was born,  I knew there was no way I was going to hand her over to someone else at age 5, and essentially surrender my family’s rhythm and schedule. I love the ebb and flow of our learning as it is now, there is a natural flow from reading, to crafting, experimenting, and impromptu learning moments.

Happy Learning and Teaching,

Stephanie

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Table Art March 24, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Hospitality,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:55 pm
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One of my favorite parts of cooking a special  meal for people is creating a tablescape. My husband built our diningroom table; it is beautiful and one of a kind. Similar to what are sold in high ends stores as ‘farmer’s tables’ it was built with left over wood. It has a beautiful wood grain and deep knots, along with some dings and scratches my husband calls ‘character’. Because we love our table so much, I almost never use an actual tablecloth. Instead, I like to create themed centerpieces with some unexpected elements.

Today we started making the centerpiece for Easter. I wanted lots of colored eggs, so we made a batch first thing this morning. Makayla watched in awe as I poked each egg and blew the yolk and white out into a bowl (the dogs were lucky this morning and had 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast.) I used a regular store-bought kit to dye the eggs, but I added some lemon juice to mute the colors into a more pastel tone.

Next I wanted to creat some terrariums. I should preface the remainder of this post with an admission: I am incapable of keeping a house plant alive. Even the heartiest breed of plant fail to thrive under my care. I decided to try putting together some terrariums because they apparently ‘thrive on neglect’. Perfect! I can neglect a houseplant! I went to the garden center this morning and bought some plants. The key is to select an odd number of plants (odd numbers are always more esthetically pleasing) of varying heights, colors, and textures. I could not tell you the names of the plants, I just picked them based on the above criteria.

You can use any glass container to make a terrarium. I had some around the house and just picked a few with a wide mouth.  You need to fill the bottom with small rocks for drainage. Makayla helped with this part.

Now you can start arranging the plants. Be sure to have a front and back view for the terrarium. There are lots of other steps if you are a more serious terrarium-builder. Because this is my first attempt at terrarium making, I did not want to purchase lots of expensive supplies. I will include a link at the bottom if you want a real professional instructions on how to do this.

The really fun part is to hide little objects inside the terrarium, like small animal figurines and seasonal items. I put some eggs and decorative rocks in mine, and these adorable little birds. Makayla and I put together a couple smaller terrariums and then arranged them all on an antique wooden tray on the dinning room table. We added the colored eggs to complete our centerpiece. Now all we have to do is neglect them! The only care they need is sunlight and the occasional squirt of water.

I love how the centerpiece came out because it is short enough not to obstruct the view around the table, and it is interesting. There are lots of little hidden details and unexpected elements. This was a really fun project and totally kid friendly.

Here is a link to everything you need to know to build you own terrarium.

http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/

Happy Spring!

 

Grace in a Name March 16, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:55 pm
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Anyone who has children knows the awesome responsibility of naming a child. When choosing names for our daughters Henry and I wanted to be sure the names were not too ordinary, and too unique for that matter. We named our first daughter Makayla, and our second daughter Harper.

There is a grace story to be found in Makayla’s middle name, which is: Grace. We decided on Grace because of me; more specifically my lack of physical Grace. When I was little people in my family would call me Grace, but for all the wrong reasons. I was clumsy; and not just regular kid clumsy, I was accident prone, regularly fell down stairs, had perpetually skinned knees, and generally lacking in coordination. I sincerely hoped my daughter would not inherit this trait of gracelessness, so we gave her the middle name Grace.

Did it work? well yes and no. She is a little clumsy, but she also has a Grace filled heart. She loves and accepts people effortlessly and without restraint. She is generous and kind. She has compassion and empathy. She is thankful and a veritable fount of creativity and curiosity.

I decided to interview Makayla. I have a journalistic streak in me, and thought this would be an interesting exercise in writing, and parenting for that matter. So below is an interview with my Grace-filled and Grace-named daughter.

Me: What is your favorite color?

Makayla: Yellow

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Makayla: I told you I never want to grow up!

Me: Well, what would you do for a job then?

Makayla: Wear doctor clothes.

Me: What is something you and I have in common?

Makayla: Our chins and our eyes.

Me: What is something you and Daddy have in common?

Makayla: Our hair is the same I think.

Me: When are you proud of yourself?

Makayla: When I win races.

Me: What makes you happy?

Makayla: Ice cream.

Me: What makes you sad?

Makayla: When kids won’t play with me.

Me: What is your super power?

Makayla: Helping people.

Me: Where in the world would you like to visit?

Makayla: Nowhere, I like it here at home.

Me: What is your favorite bible story?

Makayla: Joseph and his brothers.

Me: What is Mommy’s super power?

Makayla: Rescuing people.

Me: What is Harper’s super power?

Makayla: Picking up toys.

Me: What is Daddy’s super power?

Makayla: Playing golf.

Me: What is  your favorite thing to do with Mommy?

Makayla: Go to Kate’s house.

Me: What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?

Makayla: Eat french fries.

Me: What is your favorite thing to do as a family?

Makayla: Go camping. 

Me: What do you like to learn about?

Makayla: The moon, and dinosaurs I think.

Me: What is a question you have right now?

Makayla: Ummm, what do caterpillars eat?

Me: Who do you love?

Makayla: You.

 

 

 

Local Fun on a Saturday March 10, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 7:20 pm
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We have been all over the place this week, so I decided to stay close to home and patronize some local places with the kids this Saturday morning. We met up with my sister Sarah and nephew Payton and went to the new frozen yogurt cafe called Merry Berry. I was actually obsessed with the place before I even stepped foot in the building, and I was not disappointed. The restaurant is clean and the decor is interesting. The owner greeted us a soon as we arrived and showed us how to use the self-serve frozen yogurt bar. It was awesome. The frozen yogurt was really good, and all the toppings made it even more enjoyable. And..wait for it…it is fat-free, which means guilt free. The girls and I all got frozen yogurt, and I had a small coffee (also great) for eight dollars and some change; you cannot beat that. As I was there I was thinking how I could fit a weekly visit (at least) into my schedule. I probably get a little to excited when something new comes to the area, but this is what happens when you are rasing your family in a rural area where you yourself also grew up. Not much has changed, and there is not a whole lot to choose from when it comes to shopping and dinning.

After our frozen yogurt brunch, we headed to the local crafters studio where you can paint your own pottery. Makayla enjoys going there and Harper and Payton had never been. It is fun, although expensive, and certainly a ‘once in a while’ activity. It cost $24 for the girls and I to paint. Makayla painted a polka-dot snail she named Swirly, and Harper ‘painted’ a tile. I also talked to the owner while there about sewing lessons. I have been wanting to learn to sew, and especially to follow a pattern. I am hoping I can convince a friend to do this with me (hint-hint).

All in all, a pleasant Saturday Morning. I am now a frozen-yogurt addict, have a polka-dot snail,  and I supported the local economy. So, who is going to learn to sew with me???

 

God is Colorful March 1, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Teaching and Learning — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:40 am
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Lent Day 8

Today’s reflection exercise was to find the color of mercy. I spent quite a bit of time looking through photographs and artwork; but must to my consternation nothing seemed to jump out at me. I should say that I know very little about art, aside from what I learned in one undergraduate course in art history. I do not paint, or take photographs, although I enjoy museums. The very idea that color can represent a characteristic of God was lost on me entirely, until I pulled back and started looking at the sheer vastness of color in the world; and not just the mind-boggling array of magnificent colors we observe in nature, but the amazing tapestry that is mankind in all of it’s multicultural beauty.

We are created in His image, and blessed with a certain amount of creativity, which has resulted in the kaleidoscope of cultures we see throughout history. Our God is the creator of art, of family, of music, of language, and of celebration. He created the very rhythms of the seasons, and the internal seasons of families and individuals. As observers, we then can see glimpses of the characteristics of God in this colorful display of people and places. I can only imagine what God sees from His vantage point; not the messy tension and strife between disconnected and isolated people, but rather each of the unique shades of Himself represented across the globe, in each culture, each place, each ethnicity, and each person.

So I could not find one color that adequately conveyed ‘mercy’ to me, but I did come to the conclusion that God’s character is reflected in all color; and what is the simultaneous presence of all color, but light! The world was created beginning with light, the seven colors of the rainbow spoken by God (Genesis 1:3). Similarly, Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and the white that covers our crimson sin (Isaiah 1:18). For our part, believers are called to be light in a dark world (Matthew 5: 13-16). God is color, God is light, but color is just one reflection of God. He is a God of creativity and detail and His fingerprints are found everywhere, in every person, and everything.

“You are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord turns my darkness into light” 2 Samuel 22:29.

For Tomorrow:

A Picture of Mercy

 

Her Diadem February 16, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:28 pm
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Harper's Crown

Today I made a birthday crown for my soo-to-be-one-year-old daughter, Harper. It is not a particularly fancy crown, the like of which you can purchase on Etsy, but rather a simple crown made from scrap felt and embellishments I had on hand. I started this tradition with my older daughter Makayla. I wanted to mark each birthday with a handmade crown displaying her new age. Truth be told, I considered reusing Makayla’s crowns for Harper–but only in passing. Each girl will have her very own birthday crown each year. And after the birthday has come and gone, I tuck the crowns away for safekeeping. I have a vision of displaying 16 such crowns at for each girl on her milestone birthday.

In the bible Paul writes;

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 11

But how do our children know when to put down childish things? I feel that in mainstream American culture there is a total absence of the traditions that mark the passage from childhood to adulthood. However, such traditions are prevalent in the rest of the world.In our culture the line between child and adult is becoming more and more blurred, and I feel that this ambiguity is causing widespread and unhealthy confusion. Makeup and push-up bras are being marketed to 9 year olds, and yet anyone who has taught knows all about the ‘helicopter parent’ who micromanage every aspect of their childs’ life well into college. No wonder kids are confused and misled!

So, in our house we put a significant emphasis on birthdays. The day is filled with family tradition,s which serve to mark the passage of time for our two girls. I know this alone will neither prevent them from growing up to fast or maturing too slowly. However, I do think that having a rich sense of family culture and identity certainly helps. And really who doesn’t love their very own crown?

My husband and I are intentionally crafting a  family culture, which will help to give our daughters a healthy sense of self-worth. The process of ‘putting down childish things’ will not happen overnight, but we will gently coax our daughters toward adulthood in a way that is loving and appropriate. My husband is Korean, so he brought to our marriage his own set of practices and traditions, whicht we are sharing with our daughters. I grew up in a family with a strong french Canadian influence. Above all, we are christians, and we take special care to honestly and sincerely make this integral to our identity, rather than just something we ‘do’ on Sundays.

The word tradition comes from a latin word meaning to action of handing over. What a beautiful picture! We are handing over our culture, our heritage, and our faith to a younger generation. By developing a strong sense of family culture we are teaching our girls who they are and where they come from, and ultimately this will help them to figure out where it is they are going with clarity and confidence.

So today I make a crown. What are you ‘handing over’ to your children?